This is what I do, don't try to understand how I do it; I don't really know either

Lump Me In

What an incredible time to be alive. There are so many challenges, tension, conflict, and issues that have simmered beneath the surface and have reached a boiling point. That may not seem like a positive thing but I see it as opportunities. When conflict is hidden or left unaddressed then nothing changes. The desperate reality that many people face is being brought into the light. This reality is hard to accept or understand for those who have not experienced it. It makes us uncomfortable and that’s exactly how we should feel. If we see suffering and are comfortable with it then there is something wrong with us.

Some different groups and movements are rising to demand change. These movements stand for many things. I am watching the reaction of the evangelical Christian community. I am watching them upset about the human rights violations but afraid to take a stand or position themselves too near a movement because they don’t fully align with every value of the movement. They are concerned that people may confuse them as someone that they are not or holding values that they don’t. They are more worried about how others perceive them, than they are about demanding justice. I know a guy who didn’t care about that, and it was significant.

Jesus talked with sinners. He associated, ate with, spent time with, and built relationships with people who were looked down on by the religious community of His day. We often forget the cultural context that Jesus lived in and the way He lived his life. He was not afraid to be painted with the same brush as the outcasts, so why are we? Also in the New Testament, God told Peter to have a sleepover with Gentiles – this was not done! God had a huge calling for Peter and he had to get over his cultural bias and lose the image management that often comes with religion.

I have had pictures taken and publicly posted of myself and the Prime Minister of Canada, the President of Kenya, and the king of porn Ron Jeremy. I want to get to know people because they are people. We are likely going to have things we agree on and disagree on (Ron Jeremy likes worship music so I partly agree with him on that). Christians need to worry less about being misunderstood and put that effort into justice. People are going to misunderstand you no matter how much image management you do so, to quote a Disney movie I still have never seen, let it go.

Is it more important that people completely understand you or that other people stop dying? You can view me any way you want to as long as my actions are making a positive difference in the lives of other people. I am in progress, but I find myself less afraid of being misunderstood the more confident I am in myself and who I am in Christ. So lump me in with any group you choose and you are probably partly right but regardless, I will take my stand with the hurting, suffering, and vulnerable because I am more worried about them than your perception of me.

Our Storytelling

I used to write a lot. Growing up I wrote poems, short stories, fiction, non-fiction. Writing was this creative outlet. Putting pen to paper was akin to me as a potter sitting at the wheel and molding the clay with each turn. Words are my paint that I use to portray the picture of what’s in my heart. Writing my story has been a cathartic experience of bringing the darkness to light. Telling my truth validates the things that I have experienced. These events really did happen.

My editor has me reading a book called Shimmering Images by Lisa Dale Norton. She has instructed thousands of people on how to write. I love this process of learning how to be a better writer. It’s like watching each piece of pottery get better every time you make a new one. She talks about the ancient stories that were passed down through generations. These stories help us see we are not alone – they connect us. “This is how we create the mysterious bonds that connect us as couples, as lovers, as friends, as family members, and as participants in community or a nation.” When we share our stories with authenticity and invite the readers “into the private world of our experience, the result is intimate and transcendent.”

I have been reading a lot of stories. I feel connected to the people who tell them and it makes me feel less alone. That’s helpful in a time when we have to be socially distant. When people read my story I hope they will feel connected to me. Some people will relate to different aspects of my experiences. Some people may have had similar chapters in their story and others may connect based on the feelings they can relate to.

Many of the stories I have read are difficult journeys of people from Africa who have overcome the most unfathomable life circumstances. Many of them talk about life before their difficulties began and the storytelling that would happen in their communities. I imagine the children and adults gathered together to listen. I believe many indigenous communities also have these traditions. It’s a beautiful thing when we come, not only to learn from each other but about each other.

We need that now more than ever.

Tea Masala

This morning I made tea masala for the first time. Two years ago I traveled through six different countries in Africa for five weeks. I constantly drank tea masala. When I booked that trip I had no idea that it was the beginning of a new journey for me but it was a fitting place to start that journey.

Wanje Latte

 

In some indigenous cultures children are not given a name at birth. Their name is given as their character develops. Though that seems strange to me in many ways because that is not the culture I know, I think it is beautiful. Names mean things.

I was given a Kenyan name and I feel like the past two years have been a process of owning that name. Exploring its heights and depths. What are it’s limits and strengths. The world will give us lots of names. Some we take and put on to see if they fit. We look in the mirror and we keep the garment on, positive or not. Some we can look at on the hanger and know they are not for us.

The more you know who you are, the more you know what doesn’t fit you.

I remember as a teen “liking” everything that my boyfriend liked because I had no idea who I truly was. As you discover who you originally were, by digging under the layers of whats been put on you and you did not know to take off,  you start to explore your place in the world. This is me, so how do I fit with the rest of you?

My journey, from birth through self-discovery, has taken me to this place and I am now in process of putting some of it to print. I am working with an editor for the purpose of publishing a memoir. Our stories are powerful. Our stories can help each other. That includes my story.

I’ll keep you posted…

I Refuse to Be Sorry

Human relationships are fascinating things. There are different kinds of relationships and even different values we ascribe to the relationships or each other. I had plans to work on a few projects during this time and those plans have not changed. I often need help or guidance with projects that I work on. COVID has had different impacts on different people and some people have found themselves having more time and others with less.

A new friend of mine, who is someone I greatly admire, has been giving me guidance on one of my projects. He is also someone whose time has been filled with more things to do since COVID hit and I would not have guessed he had more time in his already full life. These past few weeks I keep feeling the need to apologize for asking more questions and needing more help. This week I took some time to analyze why I felt this strong urge to say sorry.

First I attributed it to being Canadian, and although that’s valid, I knew it was deeper than that. So when I kept digging I discovered that it is because of how I view the relationship and the values I have given that make me want to apologize. I hold him in such high regard and view his time as valuable, which it is. But the problem enters in that there is something inside of me that is not feeling that I am worth the valuable time he takes to help me. I feel like I want to say sorry for taking some time that could be spent on something or someone else that would be more valuable.

Now that I have pulled that out of me, I can look at it and say that that is garbage. Why would I think I am not worth spending time on? I am a valuable person with dreams and ambitions. I work hard to help others and this project will do that. I will not be sorry or feel bad for having others invest in me. I am worth investing in.

So I am making a conscious decision to channel those feelings (whenever I feel them because they will keep coming up) and use them to push me to continue to work hard and make the world better. I chose to also invest in others. People are worth investing in. Things may not always turn out how you had hoped but your efforts are not wasted. People are worthy of love, time, and attention. That includes me.

Please Help Someone

I had started this blog last week but had not finished it. Then the mental health piece of COVID 19 hit my family very close to home and very hard. COVID may take people who were fairly stable and push them to a dark place. People who were already in a dark place may not be able to see any possibility of hope.

Yesterday my friend Lisa said, “we are not all in the same boat but we are all in the same storm.” People who struggle with mental health during non pandemic times were in their own storms. Now everyone is in a storm so, to be honest, it’s not that hard to find people who are struggling. Many people are pushed to the limits of what their physical, financial, emotional, and mental health can take. In this storm there are many people who are drowning. You don’t have to look far. So in light if this, here is the rest of my blog:

This morning I am reflecting on all the offers of help. For the first few weeks of the physical distancing measures I saw posts on social media offering meals to anyone who would send a message and ask for it. There are help lines set up for children and women who are being abused. The covert offerings for women to send a Facebook message asking to buy makeup which would signify that the woman is not safe but she can’t say that directly. But all of these things, though well intended, are missing the target in a big way.

 People who are drowning can not call for help. We need to stop expecting that they can reach out or ask. If you want to help someone – then do it. ANYONE. Just make a call to check in. Drop off a meal – don’t ask if they need it, just do it. Who will be angry with thoughtfully delivered free food? Who would hate that you sent a message to say – hey I’m thinking about you, how are you doing really because this is tough?

We can use this time to reflect on the kind of person we want to be. If you want to be more generous or kind then NOW IS YOUR TIME. Do not wait to think you’ll do it after the pandemic is over. It won’t be over for a long time and if you buy into that line of thinking then you just wish you were a better person but your not actually going to do anything about it.

If you think you don’t know anyone who might be in an abusive situation or who is struggling then bring food to a single parent, or some toys for their kids. Single parenting is hard in normal times let alone in a pandemic. Check in on people. I’ve received a few messages from people to see how I am and they have meant the world to me.

Let’s also not forget this is a Global pandemic. Someone else contacted me about being a child sponsor and that made my month! You can help locally and global, the world needs help.

Stop waiting for an opportunity, opportunities are all around you. Go get them.

Below are numbers you can call if you do need help (please do reach out for help if you need it). If you are concerned about the safety or welfare of someone you can also call these numbers.

*Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 or Text CONNECT to 686868

*Fraser Health Crisis line: 604-951-8855 or 1-877-820-7444 (toll free)- trained volunteers provide emotional crisis support 24 hrs/day, 7 days a week.

*Mental Health Support Line (24/7 all ages):

310-6789

*Emergency Mental Health Crisis: Call 911 – Car 67 Mental Health Police Response

*Suicide Prevention Crisis Line: 1-800-784-2433

*Suicide Prevention Education and Counselling (SPEAC): 604-584- 5811

This is a challenging time in many ways and on many levels. It is impossible to process all that is happening, especially because once you begin to get a footing, everything changes and you are upended again. It feels as though we are living in a time where there is no right answer and we just make decisions the best that we can for ourselves, our families, and others. This includes our leaders.

The amount of anger that is being spewed onto social media towards world leaders and organizational leaders is beyond toxic. I stand firmly that leaders need to be held to account, but what I have seen is not a demand for accountability. It seems to be a vile outpouring of hatred towards the people and organizations themselves. I surmise that this comes from a place of fear. Conspiracy theories abound and many of them are attacks against people and organizations that do work to help the most impoverished.

This is heartbreaking to me. At a time when we need to stand together the most, some are using the opportunity to attack based on their agenda. They see the world as black and white with no alternatives. They do not see that organizations and governments are run by people, people who make mistakes and fail. Again, I want to reiterate that I strongly believe that people and groups need to be held accountable for their actions but when a mistake happens why are there some who are wanting to condemn the entirety of the organization?

Life is not black and white. I don’t know if it is a life experience or maturity level that needs to be reached to understand that life has more than two colors. It is a multi-color prism of blue, burgundy, green, violet, tangerine, aquamarine and so much more! This means that life is complicated. It means that people make mistakes but not that they are out to get you and implant microchips in your brain to control you.

This aspect of our world right now saddens me, but greater than this are people who are seeing the opportunities and stepping up to the plate. People are being innovative like never before. They are not going to let social distancing measures stop important work to help others or they are seeing new needs and working to meet them. I am hopeful for these new innovations to make our world better and more improved as we take steps forward. Can technology be used to improve our justice system that grinds so slowly that many people are not seeing justice? Can it be used to reduce emissions as business’ realize how many people can be effective without having to physically be in the office?

Our world as we know it has been taken apart. When we put it back together again I don’t want it to go back to the way it used to be. Let us use this opportunity to improve ourselves and our world. We can only do that together. I’ve got my crayons, will you meet me with yours and lets color the world?

Pivot

Today we were supposed to be on a plane to Poland. It was supposed to be a trip of a lifetime that I had saved for. It was possibly the last trip we all take together. The oldest graduates sooner than it feels like he should and our lives are going to go in different directions. We will always be connected, but things are going to change, as they are supposed to. If I did my job right as a parent then I will have taught my children how to be independent of me.

When Madrid started closing their schools, I knew for certain we had to pull the plug on that dream. We have tickets for Auschwitz because learning about history and standing in the place where it happened are two different things. The first is important but the second holds a power in the impact that is never forgotten. It was that way for me when I was in Rwanda and I wanted to share that with my kids.

So I had to pivot and adjust. I tried to rework the trip to go to Mexico, especially after learning that one of our family members is having serious health issues. I felt that perhaps the pivot was because we needed to be with our family. Yet here we are on March 22 at home after a week of self-isolation and many more to come. We live with a vulnerable person so we had cordoned off quickly and understand that this is the beginning of a long journey.

There is grief for any type of loss. Loss of a job, loss of a dream, loss of hopes. There is fear when there is uncertainty. What will happen in the future? How will we make things work, things like rent and food? Will the company, and all I have worked for and accomplished with it go down with a pandemic?

The oddity of it all is that I know that in this isolation I am not alone in these feelings. So many people had to pivot hard and fast on their plans. So many people are staring down unemployment. So many are trying to make sense of it all when none is to be had. It’s all incredibly surreal. Some moments I am strategizing on how to be the best mom, leader, daughter, etc. and others I am under a blanket eating cheezies and watching the office for the fourth time through.

It seems impossible to have any sense of a solid plan because the future is completely uncertain. There are no definitive answers. People at this point are trying to make decisions on the information that they have at the moment, but moments pass and information changes. It feels like you are trying to make a solid structure from cornstarch and water. It holds its shape long enough for you to see it and then it dissolves into a white puddle.

I have no answers only questions. Time will pass and it will tell me what I did right and what could have been better. With each ticking second, I watch the white milky substance drip through my fingers and wonder what will emerge at the end of it all. It will not be the same because I will not be the same.

Reclaiming Holidays

There are a lot of holidays in Canada. It feels that way for someone who is not a holiday person. I am sure for many people it is a lovely time to get together with family and connect or to celebrate Jesus or bunnies or your special someone on the day of love. I don’t have great memories of holidays growing up. My family was dysfunctional and that played out on holidays as well as every other day of the year.

Then I got married and if anything was to happen, the weight fell on me. If it was successful then that was meeting expectations: no real displays of appreciation because that was what I was supposed to do. If it was not good then it was my fault and I had failed as a wife and mother. So eventually I really stopped trying. I did the best I could to still give my kids some positive memories by hiding Easter eggs and I still always decorated for Christmas but my kids knew that I would rather not do any of it.

After my divorce, I ignored thanksgiving all together. It was easy because there were no invites to dinner and since I cook dinner for my kids every other night why would I prepare a large meal that takes more effort to make AND clean up.  The kids would eat but someone would complain because you can never please all of them and it would leave me exhausted and questioning the purpose. The year that I didn’t do anything felt good. After that, I decided we were eating pizza for dinner on Christmas with birthday cake and going to a movie. Over the years I have been finding things that the kids and I all enjoy. It definitely has been getting easier as they get older.

This past year something has changed. It’s not that I am really excited to celebrate holidays per se, but I am not dreading them and that is significant. I never in my life have looked forward to Valentine’s day. In elementary I watched kids all around me with stuffed valentine bags and I would get two or three that you could tell were from kids whose moms made them make a valentine for every kid in the class. I appreciate those moms because it was definitely better than getting nothing but I still felt like a complete loser.

I am excited about tomorrow. I have done somethings for some very special people in my life to make them feel valued and appreciated. I specifically chose people that are not likely to get a valentine and who have been working tirelessly for their kids. I have plans instead of sitting home and pretending its not the big V-day.

Today I learned, is Galentines day. I think Galentines day should just hijack the entirety of Valentines but regardless of which day it’s celebrated on, the concept is fantastic. More days of the year need to be Galentines day where women celebrate women. Social media, magazines, TV and movies have women ripping each other apart with their judgments and critiques. Let’s celebrate each other! So tomorrow I bought my kids chocolates and am writing them love letters and I am celebrating some very special women.

February is hard. It’s my brother’s birthday month (who passed away) and the month that my baby was due that I lost. But February 2020, I am doing well. I’m starting to thrive. I am reclaiming my life, myself, and who would have ever thought, but also holidays.

Do You Want To Fight?

Our perceptions of people originate in a very connected way to ourselves and how we interact with the world. This is why it’s so important to really know ourselves: how we operate and make the decisions that we do. Why some things evoke strong emotions from us and not others. The better we know ourselves the healthier our relationships with others will be.

boxingjpeg

I have often been asked the question (or one similar to it): are you looking for a fight? Sometimes it comes as an accusation: you like to start a fight! If the truth is told, neither is true of me. I grew up in a home that fighting was routine, be it either my parents or one of my parents with my older brother. In the early days, things were thrown and broken but there were always loud voices. Though I would never want someone to grow up this way (and I have worked hard for this pattern to not continue with my children and sometimes fail) I wonder if it has been a direct contributor to my ability to not back down in the face of conflict.

There is a massive difference between fighting and healthy conflict. Fighting is a form of conflict but it’s not a healthy one. Conflict is inevitable in life but how you handle it is essential to health. I am the type of person who likes to take conflict head-on. I will engage in it when I believe it to be important. I have learned as I get older that some of the conflicts I thought were important are actually not. I try to be selective about my conflict but I don’t hide from it.

This is likely why some people view me as a person who looks for or enjoys fighting but I think that could be a larger reflection of them than me. Some people are quiet and fear, hide, or refuse to enter into conflict. I could say things about those people and put them in a box because of that behavior but I don’t. I’m saddened when I see it because it’s not healthy- it’s actually just as unhealthy as dealing with conflict in an angry way but more socially acceptable for understandable reasons.

But just as I don’t want to look down on them for how they handle conflict I would hope people would do the same for me but it continues that people misunderstand my straightforwardness or sometimes outright confrontation. I want to deal with things that need to be dealt with. I want to not hide things in the darkness. If there is an issue let’s put it on the operating table, cut that sucker open, and figure out what’s making it ugly so we can deal with it and move forward in a healthy way. This is an uncomfortable process. People feel more comfortable with the monster festering under the table or in the closet. At the risk of sounding like Rihanna, I am friends with the monsters under my bed because I know them and we work together. I am finding ways to use my weaknesses to help myself and others. Mark Manson said that our weaknesses lose power if we embrace them. I am grabbing hold of my monsters and teaching them so that they don’t lead me. Ignoring things doesn’t make them go away, ever.

If you want to view me negatively because I own my faults and dive into conflict then I’m very ok with that. I like who I am and am confident in myself – even my weaknesses. I do my best to speak the truth in love and apologize when I fail but if my personality, values, and how I live my life don’t work or feel comfortable for you, that’s ok. It’s my life, not yours. We can set up some healthy boundaries that work for both of us 😉

I am reading Arlene Dickinson’s newest book called “Reinvention”. I’m half way through and I love it. I have loved her since I saw her on Dragons Den and wanted to be like her in so many ways. A strong woman entrepreneur.

She talks about when she first started on the show and how intimidating it was to be a role model but then she saw that it was her imperfections that made her a good leader. It made her relatable and human. She didn’t have flashy degrees that made her what she was – she was who she was because she worked hard and was true to herself.

This inspires me because I can can definitely embody those two things – imperfection and being myself. Being imperfect is easy but being true to yourself is harder because you have to let your imperfections show. They are a part of who you are. Leaders who “have it all together” will have more followers, until the armour tarnished and cracks appear – because they will, and then people will be disillusioned. An imperfect leader may not have some people follow because they are disillusioned from the start but those kinds of people will just jump from one “perfect” leader until they fail and then they will find another. Those people do this because they can not accept the imperfections within themselves.

Everyone fails. To fail is to be human. I make a ton of mistakes all the time but I do my utmost to own them. They are my mistakes and I desire to learn from them and grow. I’ll share them with you and I hope you share yours with me so we can grow together. I know that airing my imperfections in a public place, like I have here, has hindered some potential opportunities but I would rather be real and accepted for who I am than pretend.

My degrees don’t make me who I am – which is why I do not want to ever be called doctor. My company doesn’t make me who I am- I built that but it’s not a definition of Amanda. Even being a mom- which is the best thing in the world, does not define me. I am me because of my character and my core values. Take me or leave me, that’s up to you but you know what your getting: imperfections and all.